Pantry Staples to make throwing dinner together a breeze
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Let me start off by saying that while I love, love, love to cook, I despise the supermarket. The lines, the rude shoppers, and the endless waiting around the meat counter test my patience beyond it’s limits (which, if I’m being honest- I have no patience).
That being said, even having tried online grocery delivery apps like Fresh Direct and Instacart, I still think it’s best to select your own meats, fruits and veggies, and check the expiry labels. I do, however, love to utilize Target’s free shipping over $35 to get great pantry items in a hurry, or Amazon Prime Pantry if I’ve got some time to wait.
Some people don’t mind running out for this and that here and there, but I am not one of those people. I find solace in knowing have a well-stocked kitchen because I love pantry shopping- and can always pull together a dinner on the fly (although, sometimes I still just order a pizza). With everyone’s lives being s hectic all the time and people barely having time to sit down, I feel it’s more important now than every to appreciate the value of learning to shop well and stock a pantry well so that you’re always able to pull something together even when “there’s no food in the house.”
Below is a list of items I like to look for while pantry shopping, and how to utilize them to create simple, home cooked meals in a flash, and (bonus) make your grocery store trips less frequent.
My Pantry Staples:
Keeping these staple items on hand makes throwing together a quick meal you just found on Pinterest that much easier. These items are common building blocks in a variety of recipes, or add ins that pump up flavor with minimal effort. You could make a sauce, stew or soup with a lot of these as the base, while some are just no-brainer convenience foods for when hanger strikes (see PB&J).
- Tomato Sauce
- Crushed Tomatoes
- Tomato Paste
- Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes
- Canned Beans (Black Beans, Cannellini, Pinto, Chickpeas)
- Chipotles in Adobo Sauce
- Jarred Salsa Verde
- Canned Tuna in water
- Jarred or canned artichoke hearts
- Chicken stock
- Diced Green Chilis
- Jarred Pesto
- Jarred pickled items (peppers, pickles, olives, etc)
- Peanut Butter
- Grape Jelly
- Panko Breadcrumbs
Packaged pasta and grains have and incredibly long shelf life, so I keep a variety on hand at all times. With these staples, you can easily throw together a quick pasta dish, a soup, a stir fry, or just a flavorful grain side.
- Various shaped pastas
- White Rice
- Brown Rice
These bare-minimum baking basic essentials can help you throw together a quick banana bread, pizza dough, or even act as an aid in thickening sauces and stews.
- Baking Soda
- Baking Powder
- Brown Sugar
- Active Dry Yeast Packets
- Yellow Cornmeal
Fats, Acids and Condiments to grab while pantry shopping:
This little list is probably my favorite. While I have mad love for fat and acid and the magic they bring to the table, literally, I may have a condiment problem. But anyway- these items aid in perfect sears, crisp frying, perfect baking and add that little extra zing to your dish, whether it be tuna salad or the perfect Pad Thai.
- Olive Oil
- Canola Oil
- Toasted Sesame Oil
- Cooking Spray
- Various Vinegars (Red Wine, Rice Wine, Apple Cider Vinegar)
- Peanut Butter
- Balsamic Glaze
- Soy Sauce
- Hot Sauce (Such as Franks or Tabasco)
- Mustard (Yellow, Dijon)
- Fish Sauce
- Sweet Chili Sauce
- Worcestershire Sauce
Additional items I like to keep on hand:
Perishable/Refrigerated Items to consider while pantry shopping:
While these are not technically part of a literal “pantry,” these are items that I am always thrilled that I have on hand, and that I definitely feel if they are not present. Like the tinned and jarred items, these are super well rounded and multi-purpose and are present in a ton of recipes.
- Unsalted Butter
- Corn Tortillas
- Grated Parmesan Cheese
- Sour Cream
- Bread (Sourdough and Marble Rye)
- Sweet Potatoes
- Cheddar Cheese
Basic Pantry Shopping: Building Block Spices:
My love of spices knows no bounds (my cupboard and my giant hand-crafted spice rack are both full, but still- no bounds). This list is of spices I think every cook needs. These are super well rounded and will carry you through a ton of recipes.
- Chicken & Beef Bullion Packets
- Kitchen Bouquet (Liquid Gravy Enhancer)
- Garlic Powder
- Onion Powder
- Salt (Coarse and Table)
- Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
- Ground Cinnamon
- Whole Nutmeg
- Chili Powder
- Dry Mustard
- Old Bay
- Poultry Seasoning
- Curry Powder
- Bay Leaves
Next Level Spices
Have I told you lately that I love you, spice rack? This is a list of some of the spices I have acquired over time that I now can’t live without, with a little explanation on the WHY for each:
- Columbia Seasoning: A spice mixture my boyfriend’s dad brought back for us from a trip to Florida, this garlicky delight is great in everything from fish, to sweet potato hash, and we even sprinkle it on pizza.
- 21 Seasoning Salute: Trader Joe’s, I salute you. Please never stop making this perfectly balanced spice mixture that’s savory and vibrant, and great on everything from baked chicken to white bean dip.
- Mushroom Spice: A new addition at Trader Joe’s, this umami-packed spice is great for amping up mushroom heavy dishes, or just for adding a little more depth to beef or lamb dishes.
- Ground Coriander: A zesty, floral spice that’s great in Middle Eastern and Indian dishes.
- Gumbo File: A must have for great Gumbo.
- New Orleans Cooking School Spice: Another must have for gumbo and various creole dishes. Also great for a Crab boil.
- Turmeric, Garam Masala, Madras Curry: Pronounced, earthy spices that are great in Indian dishes.
- Poppy Seeds: Will put you to sleep. But really, I love it in my Country Coleslaw and Chicken Salad with Grapes and Walnuts, and it’s also great in salad dressings and lemon desserts.
- Celery Seeds: The “salad” queen. I add it to Country Slaw, Tuna Salad, Chicken Salad and Macaroni Salad.
- Caraway Seeds: I really only use these in my Sauerkraut with Bacon and Onion for my Rueben Egg Rolls, but it’s so important I always keep it around.
- Toasted Sesame Seeds: Great to top Seared Tuna, Roasted Asparagus or Stir fry dishes for a little kick of nutty flavor and crunch.
- Hungarian Paprika: Sweeter in favor than your standard paprika, I use this spice when making traditional Hungarian foods like Chicken Paprikash, or when I want a more nuanced paprika flavor.
- Tarragon: Lovely in chicken salad, baked salmon, or in some potato dishes.
- Saffron: Expensive, but great in Paella or used to flavor some rice dishes.
- Cardamom: Great for Indian and Middle Eastern dishes, some baked goods, and Mexican Hot Chocolate.
- Sazon: A bright orange Puerto Rican spice blend I love to use to spice up boring chicken salad.
For dinner ideas, visit my dinners page!
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